As an adult, you know exactly how you should care for your teeth. Brushing twice a day and flossing each day are common oral care habits you developed as a child, and you learned these good habits from your parents.
Now that you’re a parent and have children of your own, you know that you need to teach them to develop these same good oral health care habits. However, if you have an infant who doesn’t have teeth, you may wonder how to properly care for his or her mouth.
What do you need to do to ensure he or she maintains good oral health? When does a dentist need to examine your child’s mouth?
Below, we answer these questions and others so you know how to care for your growing baby’s mouth, gums, tongue, and teeth. Read on to learn what you can do as a parent and how a dentist can aid you in your efforts to promoting good oral health in your child.
Do Babies Really Need Their Mouths Cleaned?
Though most babies’ tongue, soft palate, and gums are properly developed, some may have minor issues that require some extra care. These minor, harmless issues include:
- Bohn’s nodules, which are small, pearl-like, white bumps on the roof of the mouth
- Epstein’s pearls, which are small, pear-like, white spots on the roof of the mouth
- Inclusion cysts, which are small bumps that appear on the gum ridge
Some babies may even have natal and neonatal teeth. Natal teeth are teeth that your baby has when he or she is born. Neonatal teeth are small teeth that emerge within the first 30 days after birth. If your baby does have teeth, you do need to care for them as well as possible.
Even if your baby doesn’t have teeth, you should still clean his or her mouth regularly, especially his or her gums. This regular cleaning can stimulate the gums and saliva production, which keeps your baby’s mouth healthy.
And once your child does develop teeth, he or she will already be used to the sensations associated with cleaning. This early start on cleaning can make it easier for your baby to develop good brushing habits later on in life.
When Should I Take My Baby to the Dentist?
Some parents mistakenly think that their children don’t need to visit the dentist until they have a full mouth of teeth. However, children should see the dentist for the first time no later than their first birthday.
Typically, though, you’ll want to take your child to the dentist about six months after your baby’s first tooth erupts.
You’ll need to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist rather than with your own dentist. Pediatric dentists specialize in oral care for infants and children, so you know that this professional can properly care for your child’s oral health.
Once you choose a dentist, tour the facility and meet the staff. Learn how all the staff interact with children so you feel comfortable each time you take your baby in for a dental exam.
What Can I Expect to Happen During That First Visit?
At your baby’s first visit, his or her dentist will take the following steps:
- Examine any teeth your baby has, as well as his or her gums, tongue, and mouth.
- Tell you how to care for your baby’s mouth.
- Teach you about oral habits like thumb and finger sucking. Talk to you about the proper use of fluoride.
Your baby’s dentist will also talk to you about other important dental milestones, how to prevent accidents that could damage your baby’s teeth and face, and how your baby’s diet can affect his or her oral health.
How Often Does My Baby Need to See the Dentist?
Your baby doesn’t have to visit the dentist as often as you do. After your baby’s first appointment, his or her dentist will likely ask you to come back for a follow-up visit. Depending on your baby’s oral health and risks, his or her dentist will then tell you how often you need to bring your baby in.
What Can I Do to Promote Good Oral Health in My Baby?
While you’re at home, you can use the following tips to help your baby maintain good oral health:
- Feed your baby a healthy diet.
- Limit sugary and starchy foods.
- Have your baby drink water after each meal.
- Use a damp, soft washcloth to clean your baby’s tongue and gums.
- Don’t let your baby have a bottle of milk or sweet liquid right before bed. Stop sucking habits as soon as possible.
When your child does develop teeth, use a soft-bristled, small toothbrush to clean the teeth. You don’t need to use toothpaste until your baby turns two.
Now that you know more about your baby’s oral health, you can better care for his or her mouth and teeth. Use the information in this blog to properly care for your baby’s dental health. When your infant cuts his or her first tooth, make sure to take him or her to a dentist that specializes in pediatric dental care.
If you want additional tips on how to care for your child’s mouth, consult with his or her dentist. He or she can provide you with at-home care instructions, as well as a list of foods that can help your child grow strong teeth.